With the Futurecraft Loop, Adidas launches into the circular sneaker

The environmental ravages of fast fashion, so of the fast sneaker, are now the center of attention. This is a vital ecological issue, a shared moral concern and, for some brands, a way to project marketing with or without cynicism into greener horizons – like Veja before it, Allbirds has perfectly understood.

It is hard to deny Adidas' efforts in this area. In 2015, the German brand decided to collaborate with Parley for the Ocean to create a line of shoes made of plastic recovered in the oceans. She then produced 7,000 units: a tiny amount, but a gesture that should not be neglected. Four years later, Adidas hopes to produce 11 million pairs of shoes made from marine litter.

Curly buckle

And the firm intends to go further. With its Futurecraft Loop, announced April 17, Adidas intends to upset both the manufacture, consumption and sale of sports shoes.

The Futurecraft Loop is a product designed to know, potentially, an infinity of lives. Once worn, the pair can be returned to Adidas, who can recover the materials and use them to create two new shoes, then put back on the market.

"Loop", as a loop: if the company admits to be still far from the ideal goal of 100% recycling, it hopes to tighten in the coming years towards a closure of this industrial and commercial circularity.

The project of a fully recyclable sports shoe has been floating for years at Adidas. But it has long been technically impossible, especially because a medium basketball uses twelve different materials, obviously difficult to separate and recycle.

The missing piece in the circular puzzle was a unique material: the polymers invented by the brand for the soles of other shoes, called Boost.

They can certainly be used to make soles, but also to be woven to be woven, as discovered by Adidas – and therefore serve for the entire shoe, laces included. Bonus: No need for glue or seams, the material invented by the brand's engineers can be simply welded.

Netflix of the shoe

There remains the question of the sale. How to sell to customers a product that, on other feet, has already experienced one, five, ten, one hundred lives? How to justify the gradual and inevitable yellowing of the material used? How to make desirable this pre-existence and this next reincarnation?

How to integrate these shoes of a new type into a market where sneakers are objects loved, prized, preserved, collected, where they are accessories of differentiation and social and cultural affirmation?

These questions remain in the air. Adidas, still in the experimental period, will not sell the first series of its Futurecraft Loop: as the beta version of a software, it will be distributed according to modalities yet to be announced.

And then? Adidas is thinking of selling its product with a package and a voucher for the return. A subscription system could even be considered. To use an almost universal expression, the company would then launch the first Netflix of the shoe.